Jasper closing backcountry ski areas to protect caribou
Jasper National Park plans to ban backcountry skiing in high elevation areas from Nov. 1 to March 1 in an effort to protect woodland caribou from predators.
Caribou are a threatened species.
The animals move to higher elevations in the winter and the restrictions are necessary to protect them, according to John Wilmshurst, acting resource conservation manager for the park.
"By track-setting with skis into those high elevation areas, we make it easier for wolves to have access to that terrain in the winter," he said.
But the plan isn't going over well with some outdoor enthusiasts.
The measure will affect about 18 per cent of the park and skiers say they’ll be shut out of the most popular areas for most of the season.
"All the places we ski is all the places where the caribou live and there’s reasons why we go there," said skier and Jasper resident Loni Klettel.
"There’s access, you can get up the valleys, the roads take you up to a certain elevation, which is 1,500 metres and that's where you start your ski."
Parks Canada has held public meetings on the issue in Jasper and Edmonton.
Concerns have also been expressed that the restrictions could hurt the Jasper economy, but Wilmhurst says the local chamber of commerce believes that this isn't a large user group so members aren't concerned.
The public can still voice their opinion on the plan on the Parks Canada website until the middle of April.
Parks staff hope to have the restrictions in place by November.